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Erpenbach - More Accountability Needed for Taxpayer Funds at King Nursing Home PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District   
Friday, 17 March 2017 16:20

veteran-olderFunds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.


MADISON - Caring for our veterans is one of the most sacred duties we work to achieve as a state. We have been entrusted by the Federal government to care for elderly and disabled veterans and their spouses at our veteran nursing homes. These facilities should have the gold standard of care. Unfortunately, like many other operations of the state, infrastructure and maintenance delays and failures have affected the lives of those in our nursing homes, most notable at the Veterans Home at King. This is NOT a money problem. Even when state finances were tight just after the recession, the veteran nursing homes have been building surplus of funds.

While the federal government has decided not to limit how states can spend surplus revenues, we can still make the right choices here in Wisconsin and invest in our veteran care with money that was paid to care for veterans. The first step in that process is taking back control of transfers out of the veteran nursing home surplus fund. Currently about $35 million of revenue sits in this surplus fund. This money can be transferred out of the fund at any time not by the Legislature, but by a political appointee, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The only way the Legislature even knows about the transfers are because of a statutory required annual report to the Legislature on the Veterans Fund.

Why does the veteran’s nursing Home fund have a surplus? These revenues are derived from an exemption from the nursing home bed tax, the federal per diem paid to facilities for the care of veterans, federal service related disability payments made for the care of disabled veterans, the higher state rate for reimbursement for Medicaid, and private payment from veterans and their families.

The 2013 budget included language that allowed for unlimited transfers from the veterans nursing home fund into the Veterans Fund without Legislative approval. The Legislature added JFC passive review, but the Governor vetoed it. DVA can now transfer, at any time, surplus from our state veteran’s nursing homes facilities. Unfortunately, turning back the clock and granting facility upgrade requests is not an option. $18.5 million in facility improvements in the last state budget were zero funded by Governor Walker. Our only choice as a Legislature is to move forward. That is why I am proposing a bill to reestablish Legislative oversight of all funding for the veterans homes. The DVA will transfer a total of $21 million away from the Veterans Nursing Homes just this biennium. Passing the buck on financial oversight is wrong.

A state that supports their veterans spends state money for programs for veterans and does not use money meant for the care and comfort in nursing homes for agency administration and rent. Funds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.

For more information on the Veterans Fund please contact my office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 March 2017 16:33
 
Bewley - Ready to Help Wherever Needed PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Janet Bewley Press, State Senator Dist 25   
Saturday, 11 March 2017 11:35

girl_scoutsOn National Girl Scouts Day, March 12, 2017


ASHLAND, WI - One of the things I enjoy most about being a State Senator is visiting local schools to talk with fourth graders about state government. I always try and include time for questions and answers. Fourth graders can be very curious. I get lots of questions about my family – do I have children, did I have brothers and sisters – and my preferences – what’s my favorite color, do I like dogs, cats, or lizards? (I like turtles.)

janet-bewleySometimes you get a question you’re not expecting, a question that throws you for a loop. Earlier this month, after fielding questions about how old I am and if I know any famous people, a student raised her hand and asked “why do you do it?”

I must have paused long enough for her to realize I wasn’t sure what she meant, so she added “why did you want to be a Senator?” And the answer that immediately came to mind was to help. So that’s what I told her. “Like the Girl Scouts,” she replied. I didn’t have lots of time to think about it at the time, as other students had more questions for me to answer. But she was right.

This week offered me another opportunity to both think and talk about what it means to help. On Wednesday, Representative Mary Felzkowski and I hosted a “Troop Meeting” at the State Capitol in honor of 105th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts of America. Over those 105 years, Girl Scouting has helped millions of girls and women build the courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place.

The continued influence of Girl Scouting is evident by the strength of the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Alliance, which represents 56,000 girl members and 17,000 adult volunteers. Girls from every part of the state came to Madison to celebrate and receive awards for their accomplishments. I was proud to join with Representative Felzkowski and other colleagues to welcome these young women to the Capitol.

As I was thinking about what I would say, I remembered the words of the Girl Scout motto that I recited as a young girl back in Cleveland. “Be Prepared. A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency."

Ready to help out wherever needed. Those are good words to live by. Words that are just as important today as they were in 1947 when the Girl Scouts adopted the motto. I have often talked about my admiration for the men and women who got us through the Second World War and rebuilt our country after the Depression.

I learned this week that the Girls Scouts also helped the war effort. Instead of selling cookies, they sold special calendars and war bonds, tended victory gardens, and scrapped metals and fat to be reused.

We are lucky we live in much safer times. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the Girl Scouts in some way on March 12th – support a local troop by buying an extra box of cookies, take a moment and encourage a young girl you know, find a way to help someone who needs it.

 
Blue Jean Nation "Anatomy of an identity crisis" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Thursday, 09 March 2017 14:16

identity-crisisAmerican values? Conservatives and Republicans seem more confident in their beliefs, and they define Democrats by default. Trump is promising both guns and butter. But, what are your core values?


ALTOONA, WI - If my travels over the last several years have taught me anything, it’s that America — or at least our little corner of it here in Wisconsin — is in the midst of an identity crisis. I’ve been given the opportunity to meet with every imaginable kind of group — urban and rural, young and old, haves and have nots and used to haves, white and black and brown, left and right. One time we meet in a church or a school. Another time it’s a bowling alley or tavern. Next time it’s a VFW or American Legion hall. After that, a public library or bookstore.

Everywhere I go, I’m given a chance to share some thoughts. But I also get to ask questions and listen. I’ve asked the same questions at every stop: What are your core values? What do you stand for?

When I talk with conservative or Republican audiences, I’m struck by how quickly and confidently and uniformly they answer. Six themes surface time after time. Less government. Lower taxes. Free market economics. Individual liberty. Old-fashioned family values. Patriotism.

Sometimes the freedom they profess to love seems to clash with their definition of family values. Sometimes their love of country takes the form of military might or homeland security. Other times it comes out sounding like fear or even hatred of foreigners.

When I meet with Democrats or left-leaning groups and ask them my questions, what I typically hear is crickets. I get puzzled looks. Pregnant pauses. A few might bring up issues or causes they care about. I stop them. I ask again. What are your values? What principles form the basis of your positions on issues? Sometimes answers never come, only shrugs. When answers are offered, they generally are neither confident nor uniform.

In the vacuum that forms, Republicans define Democrats by default. Since Republicans say they are for less government and lower taxes, that puts Democrats on the side of more government and higher taxes. This current understanding will probably persist until either Democrats reach a consensus on what values guide them or a blossoming Republican identity crisis reaches full bloom.

Now that the GOP is Donald Trump’s party, the commitment to limited government is fading. Trump is promising both guns and butter, with his demands for a massive military buildup and a trillion-dollar domestic building program. Free trade is giving way to protectionism. Intrusive government authoritarianism is increasingly trespassing on personal freedoms. Both in style and in substance, Trump is at odds with what Reagan-style conservatives consider traditional social values. Those on the right are having a harder and harder time recognizing their party and agreeing on what it should stand for.

So again I ask both Republicans and Democrats: What are your core values?

Here are mine:

  1. Freedom with responsibility. Each individual has a right to be free. But with that right comes an obligation to make sure others are free as well.
  2. Democracy, both political and economic. Both our political system and our economy should be of the people, by the people, and for the people.
  3. Equality. We are all created equal, with inalienable rights. No one starts at third base.
  4. Caretaking. This means looking out for one another, and having each other’s back. It means taking care of the land and water and air.
  5. Service. To community. To country. To each other.

— Mike McCabe

 
VP Mike Pence Visits Janesville to Speak on Obamacare PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Martha Laning   
Friday, 03 March 2017 15:24

aca-workingMany people around here want and need important parts of the Affordable Care Act, but Republicans still have no plan of their own to replace it.


JANESVILLE - Vice President Mike Pence was here today with other top Republicans to unite his party around a replacement of Obamacare.

It is very telling that Vice President Pence, Speaker Ryan, and Secretary Price spent more time in invite-only meetings than speaking to regular Wisconsinites who are afraid that their health care will be taken away from them.

martha-laningIf they had spoken to a family no longer under a mountain of debt from medical bills, a part-time teacher who can finally afford preventative care, or a recent college graduate who no longer goes to sleep at night praying they don't get sick, they'd know that the Affordable Care Act is helping millions of our friends, families, and neighbors.

mike-penceThe fact is that the ACA is more popular than ever after helping 150 million Americans with pre-existing conditions gain crucial health care coverage, increasing mental health and substance abuse health coverage substantially, and insuring millions of young adults who can now stay on their parent's health insurance until age 26.

Republicans still have no plan of their own to insure the millions of Americans who got access to lifesaving health care under the ACA. And the few ideas they have put on the table would lead to worse care that is harder to get and more expensive.

Instead of trying to rip coverage away from Americans, we should be working to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and finding ways to expand access to affordable health care.

****

Martha Laning is the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 March 2017 15:53
 
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "Gableman’s partisanship" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Thursday, 02 March 2017 16:54

michael_gablemanWe look at Justice Michael Gableman speaks at GOP fundraiser, Citizens United, a new “Influence Peddler of the Month”, and Trump & Fascism.


MADISON - It’s been a busy week so far.

We got a tip from one of our members that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is no longer even pretending to be nonpartisan, so we checked it out and it’s true:

Gableman, Club for Growth leader to speak at GOP fundraiser

We also noted that GOP legislators are on board with the effort to amend the U.S. Constitution – not to overturn Citizens United– but to foolishly require a balanced budget:

Wisconsin GOP backs article V convention. No Dems allowed!

For our “Influence Peddler of the Month,” we dug up a group you may never even have heard of:

Influence peddler of the month - Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

And we just unveiled our handy primer on Fascism and Donald Trump: “A guide for study and resistance.” Feel free to share it far and wide:

New feature: Trump & Fascism

Thanks for taking a look!

Best, as always,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

*****

Learn more about the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at www.wisdc.org.

 
Trump Throws Another $54 Billion at War PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist   
Wednesday, 01 March 2017 09:44

vietnamwarPoliticians like Trump shovel praise upon our military, but feel that they, themselves, were too good to serve. It is time they learn the lessons of history. Wars do not beget peace.


TUCSON, AZ - Americans how long will it take for us to understand we have been “had?”

It is family, school, faith and community members who help each generation learn it is better to talk to people than fight, kill and destroy. These are the great Americans.

donald-trumpI am repulsed by so many politicians like Mr. Trump who shovel praise upon our military but who, themselves, feel they are too good to serve our Nation.

Nearly all the wars since WWII have been illegal wars of aggression under our Constitution, United Nations Charter and treaties. Yet the military, CIA, presidents like Bush, Obama and Trump and individual Congressional members keep howling for blood.

Did the Romans stamp out Christianity by all their killing? Did the US win in Vietnam by killing a million Vietnamese? Are we winning the hearts and minds of Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, or North Africans by killing their families, lovers, babies and friends by the hundreds of thousands?

I say no! You cannot kill ideas with a bullet. Thinking human beings know that.

When Democratic and Republican presidential candidates call out “We will hunt down and kill all Al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc. members and their families” we know our Nation is being run by idiots.

Or, is it being run by lying actors who push wars for the benefit of the military/industrial/politician complex that makes big bucks off of continuous war?

On Nov. 6, 2018 we will elect a new Congress (all the House members and 33 senators will be up for election.) Is it time to throw the bums out, keep the few good ones and start turning America into a Nation of peace builders and turn our backs on war mongering?

Take your choice on Nov. 6th. And if you choose continuous war, get ready to donate your sons and daughters to war’s meat grinding machine – the draft will return because the American volunteer military is broken.

Trump and fools in Congress can throw another $54 billion on top of the $600 billion the Pentagon already gets for more tools of war. But the military system is broken and cannot be fixed with more dollars.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 March 2017 11:02
Read more...
 
Senator Baldwin 'Workers need Buy America commitment' PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Brandon Weathersby   
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 15:10

donald-trumpIn an OpEd published by the Appleton Post Crescent, Sen. Tammy Baldwin asks President Trump to put real actions behind the promises he has made to American workers and manufacturers.


MADISON - As Democrats, we believe that the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy will always be a highly-trained workforce making products right here in Wisconsin. Building a Made in Wisconsin economy is how local businesses thrive and are able to create good, family-supporting jobs in every city, town, and village. Senator Tammy Baldwin believes in the Made in Wisconsin economy and is asking President Trump to keep his campaign promise to “Buy American and hire American.”​

In a new opinion piece featured in the Appleton Post Crescent, Senator Tammy Baldwin asks President Trump to "lay out a clear plan of action to keep the promises he has made to American workers and manufacturers" in his speech tomorrow night to Congress.

tammy-baldwinAn excerpt from Sen. Baldwin's piece is below.

"The bottom line is this: We need a major investment in our nation’s infrastructure, we need it now, and President Trump has an opportunity on Tuesday to make clear his plan of action to take on his own party on Buy America reforms.

"The last month has been consumed by division and disagreement. How about we focus on something we can all agree on – the need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. We will put manufacturers and people to work building it and provide businesses with a stronger transportation system they need to move their goods to market. 

"People are angry that their hard work isn't respected and rewarded. Let’s work to change that. It’s time we work across party lines to make strong federal investments in our workers and America’s future. Words are not enough, the time to act is now."

Unlike the President, Sen. Baldwin is walking the walk and talking the talk for a Made in Wisconsin economy. Last year, she successfully included a provision to require water infrastructure to be made with American iron and American steel. However, Congressional Republicans continue to stand in the way as Speaker Ryan removed the provision from the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act at the very last minute. President Trump has yet to call on Congress to replace the provision. 

Wisconsinites are working more, making less, and are struggling to make ends meet. But it's clear that Congressional Republicans are content with allowing corporate lobbyists to write the rules and Wisconsin hurt workers by allowing taxpayer money to support foreign made products.  

Now is the time for President Trump to send a clear message to Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell to stop putting large overseas corporations ahead of the American worker.

Read Sen. Baldwin's opinion piece in its entirety at PostCrescent.com​

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 February 2017 15:24
 
Blue Jean Nation "First things first" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Monday, 27 February 2017 10:45

spicer-fbOur freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment have never been more threatened than they are today. We have to stand up for a free press, and a first step is seeing through false choices.


ALTOONA, WI - Forty-five words. That’s all it took for our nation’s founders to grant us five bedrock freedoms. In just 45 words, they gave us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition our government.

These five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment have never been more threatened than they are today. Press freedom is under assault as the president brands the news media an “enemy of the American people.” Both of the First Amendment’s religious freedom clauses are being ignored as non-Christians are subjected to increasing discrimination and even targeted for deportation. The first of the two, namely the establishment clause, is disregarded as more and more American taxpayers are being forced to fund religious schools.

Free speech has become anything but free as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech and corporations are citizens with speech rights, thereby blessing unlimited corporate election spending. Lawmakers in states all across the country are now trying to criminalize freedom of assembly and peaceful protest.

These are dangerous and threatening times for the First Amendment. The rise of fake news is a serious threat, but not the only one or even the biggest one. It’s not just that lies are being widely and quickly spread, it’s that a highly organized effort is being made to persuade the public that no news can be trusted, that no one is telling the truth. Journalism is being delegitimized.

Read more...
 
Senators Gave Themselves a Raise! PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Saturday, 25 February 2017 17:57

matthew_rothschildMatt Rothschild of the Democracy Campaign comments on Wisconsin State Senator who gave themselves a 31% pay bump, Walker and for-profit colleges, and Ed Garvey.


MADISON - I can’t give myself a raise. Can you?

But if you’re a leader in the Wisconsin State Senate, you can give yourself and your fellow Senators a nice bump – without any input from us lowly constituents. Here’s how they did it this week:

State senators raise their expense reimbursement by 31 percent

You may have heard that Scott Walker wants to get rid of the board that oversees for-profit colleges. It just so happens that he’s been raking in big bucks from the executives at these colleges:

The money behind dumping the state’s for-profit college watchdog

Finally, I’m in mourning this week over the crushing news that Ed Garvey passed away. Ed was a friend of mine, and a towering figure in the battle for democracy here in Wisconsin and across the country. I wrote a tribute to him that I’d like to share with you:

Ed Garvey, corporate dragon-slayer

I’d love to hear your own thoughts on Ed, so feel free to write me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Best,

Matt Rothschild

****

P.S. Tuesday, March 7, is The Big Share -- a day of online giving to support more than 60 member nonprofits of Community Shares of Wisconsin. #CSWBigShare is yet another amazing way to support a collective fight for social justice in our communities. You can support the good work of the Democracy Campaign in this exciting collaborative fundraiser -- give BIG and help lift our voice in the fight for real democracy in Wisconsin!

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 February 2017 19:25
 
Ed Garvey Is Gone But Not Forgotten PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist   
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 16:27

ed-garvey-goneEd Garvey, Wisconsin Progressive, labor attorney, Director of the NFL Players Association, and Democratic leader died this morning at a Verona nursing home. He was 76. He had been battling Parkinson's disease, which led to his retirement in 2013.


TUCSON, AZ - Ed Garvey, the friend of many, the leader of "what could have been" and a good man has died and I am saddened.

When he and Barbara Lawton ran for governor and lt. governor in 1998, they were a fantastic team that offered hope and moxie to the people of WI. But big money talks. Gov. Thommy Thompson was running for his fourth term and as the ALEC (Am. Legislative Exchange Council) representative in the race, Thompson had most of the money.

Schools and local governments were already being financially strangled and local control had disappeared with the 1993 cost controls to rein in unions and stop local spending.

Here we are decades later and local control has been killed along with public unions. Barbara and Ed were right. We could have and still can create a WI good for families and the environment but not under Gov. Walker, a dour ALEC replay in some respects of Thompson.

I will not forget Ed in the drizzle.

US Rep Dennis Kucinich was running for president in the WI primary and Ed and I invited him to speak in Madison. The rally is set up at the small private airport in Madison early in the evening. A good crowd waited. Kucinich's plane is late. We had a speaker's platform set up, it's getting dark, looks like rain. I ask Ed to talk to take up time. Plane lands, drizzle starts, ends up Kucinich is exhausted, needs to eat, and we find some one to go get a vegan dinner while he rests!

I go back outside and get Ed's attention. I ask, "Can you speak some more while they get Dennis rested and fed?" Ed says "I already talked for 20 minutes," goes back to the mic and explains what is going on, laughs and says something like Buzz wants to know if I can speak some more. Crowd laughs, we held the media there, Kucinich gave a great speech and made the news.

Oh, Ed, you could talk, think, had no fear and you gave hope! Thank you! Your were and are an inspiration to many! You fought for progressive ideals for decades as we have to do now.

Read more...
 
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